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Dual passions of flying and sport harmonize in Patricia Campos Doménech’s life. She is the first female pilot in the Spanish Armed Forces, and one of the first female professional European soccer coaches for an American team. She has won several awards for her piloting career, has been honoured as an official speaker for the U.S. organization Women in Aviation, and has also been given awards from the Spanish government on multiple occasions for both her piloting and coaching careers. Trailblazing in the Spanish Navy and in sport, she is a powerful voice for change.
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Asnaini Mirzan decided to create space for women in local politics after watching her parents live a life of public service. The first and only female head of the village council in Aceh province, she demonstrates through her own example that women can be leaders, farmers and mothers simultaneously. Her goals to improve women’s access to health care, achieve gender parity in schools and create transparent administrative processes have seen much progress, along with contributing to peace and development for the village. She also teaches agricultural courses for women to support women’s economic independence.
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Cristina Amaral, or Kiki as she likes to be called, is Timor-Leste’s first female pilot. She grew up in the isolated district of Oecusse in a country known for its recently restored independence, and couldn’t help but notice that all pilots in her beloved country were male. After studying and balancing the care of her four siblings, she won a scholarship to attend flight school, standing up against the odds in her male-dominated profession. Today, she proudly soars high above the clouds, a remarkable figure in the aviation industry.
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Zeliha Ünaldi, a long-standing gender advocate who attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, speaks on the impact of the meeting on her life. She now works as a Gender Officer in the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey.
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To mark the historic 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and its 20th anniversary this year, representatives from politics, the private sector, civil society and academia came together today in Berlin. The event with German Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Manuela Schwesig, and the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was held in the Representation of the State North Rhine-Westphalia in Berlin, hosted by the UN Women National Committee for Germany and attended by high officials and other dignitaries.
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Living in a country where patriarchy is deeply entrenched, Nazokat Begmatova, a 34-year old women from a village in southern Tajikistan took an unusual professional path as a humanitarian deminer. Delaying marriage and strapping on 25 kilograms of equipment on her body daily, she broke stereotypes of what a working woman looks like. Her desire to be active, to develop her personal skills and explore more opportunities for economic independence motivated her to overcome her immense fear of mines. She now works as part of an all-female demining team.
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In Afghanistan, she is known as the first female provincial governor, no small feat in a country that has weathered conflict and hardship for nearly 40 years. Through it all, Dr. Habiba Sarabi’s passion for human rights and education for women have grown every day. Recognized by Time Magazine in 2008 as a Hero for the Environment, and after several ministerial posts, she is currently the Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer on Women’s Affairs and Youth, a prestigious position in the new government.
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A proud defender of human rights and known as one of the most creative people in the industry, Vesna Andree Zaimović is co-creator of Radio Sarajevo’s web portal, one of the most visited websites in the Bosnia and Herzegovina, and what many call the best news source in today’s new media landscape in the country. She was also the brain behind Manjine.ba, the first web project for the disadvantaged, highlighting triumphs in claiming rights and kick-starting an online community. A trained musicologist, she is a veteran of the Eurovision song contest, one of the longest running TV shows in history.
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Aasha Mehreen Amin was one of the first female editors of the most read English language magazine in Bangladesh, The Star, and is now the deputy editor of the Editorial and Op-ed section of the most widely circulated English newspaper in the country, The Daily Star. In her column “No Strings Attached”, in the paper, she provides insightful commentary on the news of the day. An emblem of courageous journalism, she is well-known in a media landscape where political commentary is a risky business, and the workforce, especially in the news media, dominated by men.
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The first female Minister of Defense in Spain, she began her career as a law lecturer. At the age of 27, she was elected the vice-mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat in Barcelona, and then worked assiduously towards women’s equal rights in the rule of law for several years as a parliamentarian. A working mother of one, Carme Chacón became the Vice-President of Congress, the Minister of Housing, and finally, was appointed as the first female Minister of Defense of Spain.
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Dr. Erna Takazawa is the first and only optometrist in Samoa, and is also one of the first winners of the Queen’s Young Leader Award for her transformative work in eye health. Practicing optometry at the National Hospital Service, she also works in partnership with an NGO to provide sight to children with disabilities. As Clinical Director for Samoa’s Special Olympics Opening Eyes Programme, she has screened over 200 athletes with disabilities and trains teachers to detect eye issues early in their students.
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Experiencing a harrowing train accident that robbed her of an arm and a leg at 19, Şafak Pavey, chose to overcome her challenges by immersing herself in the dual causes of gender equality and the environment. As the first Turkish woman parliamentarian with disabilities, she is a role model for many. She has also worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in conflict zones, produced three books, and now contributes to law-making for her country. Her mission is promoting equal rights for people of all races, creeds and religions. Winner of the International Woman of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State, she is a force to be reckoned with.
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Asel Sartbaeva is one of the first internationally recognized female scientists from Central Asia. Her research aims to discover a substance to aid in transport and storage of vaccines without refrigeration, a major issue in disease prevention globally. She was short listed for the L’OREAL-UNESCO Women in Science Fellowship for her work in vaccine preservation and is one of the 175 Faces of Chemistry, a prestigious professional organization in the UK. Successfully navigating the male dominated fields of chemistry and physics, she is currently a Royal Research Fellow at the University of Bath in the UK.
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At a conference organized by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the National Women’s Council of Ireland on 20 February, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri will deliver a keynote speech highlighting Beijing+20 as a game-changer for women’s empowerment and underscoring the need for big, bold changes.
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She is often called the shining hope for people with disabilities.  Abia Akram, age 30, is an educated woman, and proud of the two Master’s degrees she holds. She personifies the cause she champions: that education can be the catalyst in a world where those with disabilities are not always taken seriously. The first female with disabilities from Pakistan to win the much sought after U.K. Government’s Chevening scholarship, Akram has continued to push for change,...
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Nicola Grinstead is Chair of the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a global movement of 10 million girls and young women in 146 countries, dedicated to supporting girls and young women to reach their full potential. In this op-ed, she emphasizes the importance of life-long learning, non-formal and self-directed education and engaging girls and boys to eradicate gender-based violence....
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Archana Sardana, a 40-year old adventure enthusiast is India’s first woman civilian BASE jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in India, a country where’s women’s participation in sports remains uneven, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design, and says she never took an interest in outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her...
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Angkhana Neelapaijit had imagined a life much different from the one she has today. The sudden disappearance of her husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyer, changed the course of her life and took her on a path she had never thought she would travel.  From a homemaker looking after her husband and five children, she turned into a fearless defender of human rights, working tirelessly to bring back her husband, and supported many others whose rights were violated. Winner of...
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Bangkok, 19 November – The first day of the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review in Bangkok began with stocktaking  on achievements made towards gender equality thus far, as well as emphasizing challenges that the region still faces in light of the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action , known as the blueprint for women’s rights and signed by 189 governmental representatives in 1995 as...
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Government representatives of UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Member States, experts, academics, and members of international, civil society and private sector organizations gathered in Geneva from 6-7 November to review progress towards the the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive plan for advancing women’s rights, in the lead-up to its 20th anniversary. The goals laid out in the Beijing Declaration have also served as a catalyst to the global Beijing+20 advocacy campaign.